Today's shoppers expect more, and leading retailers know they have to respond quicker. However, they can't afford to disrupt their existing online business. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

CoreMedia's Doug Heise, Global Product Marketing Director at the digital experience (DX) company that works with brands including Homebase and Office Depot, details four trends that will drive a new era of B2C Experiential Commerce in 2016:

  1. E-Commerce and Marketing teams will learn that they have to succeed together or risk failing alone. e-Commerce transactions can no longer exist in isolation from other stages in the complete customer journey, and both e-Commerce and Marketing teams will have to work together more closely in 2016 to attract new shoppers. Online shoppers expect to shift effortlessly between commerce, social, marketing, and customer support experiences. This requires marketers and e-Commerce teams to create unified experiences that cut across multiple channels, devices, and functional areas. Increasingly, fast and efficient cross-departmental collaboration - paired with tight systems integration - will become a necessary pre-condition of any successful e-Commerce solution.
  2. The End of Boring e-Commerce sites: Let's face it - the majority of e-Commerce sites look remarkably similar - an initial mosaic of promotional banners that gives way to a basic product grid. Although this approach is effective for price-driven shoppers and people who know exactly what they are looking for, it doesn't do a great job of engaging socially connected or experience-driven shoppers. Unfortunately, most e-Commerce platforms don't give their customers many other options. But, new platform and hybrid integration strategies are making it possible to deliver much more interesting and varied online shopping experiences. Expect to see more shopping sites in 2016 that replace or supplement the cookie-cutter product grid with more engaging content, more fluid layouts, increased social interaction, rich media, and more.
  3. Global/Multilanguage - We live in an age of global commerce, communications, and community. Gone are the days when brands offered just one or two international sites: today, a global e-Commerce and marketing footprint is increasingly becoming the norm. But as they expand globally, many organisations have struggled to find the right balance between centralisation and localisation. Companies need to have tighter control over their global brand message, but they also need to make accommodation for regional variety. Companies that can meet the logistics issues involved in global expansion and quickly translate and regionalise content for global audiences will be far ahead of their competitors. Expect to see more e-Commerce sites go global in the coming year - but don't expect all of them to succeed.
  4. The divide between Digital and Brick & Mortar store will continue to crumble. Online shopping and the in store experience often feels like night and day. Online shopping is all about efficiency and convenience. In store shopping is characterised by browsing and face-to-face contact. But the increased focus on omni-channel experience is making this distinction increasingly irrelevant. In store shoppers can now access kiosks, connect to store beacons with their mobile device, receive help from digitally-enabled shop assistants, and pay with their phone. Online shoppers can access live shopping assistants, engage in social conversations, explore products via interactive rich media, and have goods delivered on the same day. As in-store and online shopping continue to share best practices, expect more retailers to offer experiences that blur the line between these two extremes.

"Experiential Commerce will be the most significant e -Commerce opportunity in 2016. We know that traditional web stores are all about price, product availability and speedy delivery. They may be efficient, secure, and fast - but typically not very inspiring. Experiential commerce aims to address this imbalance by providing shoppers with more relevant, inspirational, entertaining, and informative content on the web store itself," explained Heise. "With Experiential Commerce retailers can start to understand how shoppers engage across the whole journey, effectively enabling sellers to develop an emotional connection that delights, inspires and informs shoppers.

"Experiential Commerce is characterised by content-driven product discovery, product storytelling that combines brand content with real-time commerce data, and experiences that are both personalised and contextually relevant. Examples of UK companies that are already putting this approach into practice include Homebase and Office Depot," he concluded.